Robert Craig’s wines are known for pure site expression. Most Cabernet bottlings are appellation-specific: Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, Spring Mountain, Diamond Mountain. The Howell Mountain Cabernet is the defining wine of the portfolio – a rare and extraordinary wine from a superb vineyard. The winery owns and farms two vineyards on Howell Mountain. The first is the 30-year-old estate vineyard at 700 metres above sea level, rooted in red volcanic and tufa limestone soils that give the fruit a wild, spicy, brambly character. The soil here is remarkably sparse (even for Howell Mountain), and the vine must work through the rocky soil to seek moisture. The winery calls this their “blood from the stones” for a reason.
The second, expected to be a part of future releases, is the famed 26-acre Candlestick Ridge vineyard, acquired in 2015. Candlestick Ridge sits at 680 metres on pure white volcanic ash (and more tufa limestone). The site was first planted in 1950, then replanted in 1998 by Duckhorn Wine Company. It rests on a plateau overlooking the southeast face of Mount St. Helena and the whole of the Pope Valley. The lean, well-drained soils produce dense, dark, intensely-flavoured berries.
At the winery, handling is gentle and intervention is minimal. Fruit was fermented in small lots by indigenous yeast, matured 18 months in French oak (80% new, the remainder second use), and bottled unfined and unfiltered. The finished wine showcases loads of mountain berries, black currant, and an earthy, dusty nose. The palate is hit with black cherries, blackberries, black plums, cocoa, mocha, and cream. It’s undeniably a powerhouse, a chewy wine packed with power.
“The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain incorporates 18% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot and has classic mountain aromatics as well as tannins. Blackcurrants, blueberries, scorched earth, bouquet garni, and hints of espresso all flow to a medium to full-bodied, concentrated Howell Mountain effort that has building, firm tannins, good acidity, and the balance to evolve nicely. Give bottles 4-5 years and it’s going to keep for 15-20 years or more.”
93+ points, Jeb Dunnuck, Jan 2020
“A solid 2017, showing a lovely core of blue fruit, raspberries and currants with some bark and dark chocolate. It’s full, yet not overdone with pretty length and focus. Very attractive now, but better in 2022.”
93 points, JamesSuckling.com, Dec 2020